Tourism halt allows Hawaii construction projects to proceed

View from helicopter of Waikiki Beach on April 8, 2020.
View from helicopter of Waikiki Beach on April 8, 2020.(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Apr. 13, 2020 at 4:24 AM HST
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HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii’s tourism lockdown has created an opportunity for the the start of about a half-dozen construction projects in the state’s most economically important area.

Planned projects in Waikiki include shoring up the area’s famed beaches, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The tourism collapse that followed the drop in visitors to Oahu from reduced travel demand and coronavirus restrictions have provided an unprecedented chance for Waikiki improvements while the Honolulu area is not overflowing with people.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources gave Kiewit Construction approval to proceed on a roughly $2 million replacement of the structure erected in the 1920s protect coastline buildings and create the sandy beach that made Waikiki famous.

The Waikiki Beach Special Improvement District Association partnered with the state on the replacement project and hopes to begin a $2 million sand replacement at the man-made beach.

An environmental impact statement for a $10 million Waikiki Beach Master Plan also is underway.

On a typical day in Waikiki before the coronavirus outbreak, there were about 88,000 tourists, 28,000 workers and 25,000 residents. Only 1,690 visitors have arrived on Oahu since March 26, when Democratic Gov. David Ige imposed a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for trans-Pacific passengers.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The state has started dredging Ala Wai Canal and restoring the canal’s wall. Honolulu workers are scheduled to begin intersection repaving work Monday, and work is ongoing at Centennial Park, a public-private partnership between the city and the Rotary Club of Honolulu.

“It makes a lot of sense to do those projects now (rather than) when things are normal” and streets are crowded with people and traffic, said Mufi Hannemann, Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association president and CEO.

The projects “keep people working, which is great as long as construction workers are social distancing,” Hannemann said.

The change provides a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to proceed with construction in Waikiki without interfering with preexisting activities,” Waikiki Beach Management Coordinator Dolan Eversole said.

“Hotels and other stakeholders are 100% supportive of expediting projects,” Eversole said. “They’d like to see them get done before visitors return.”

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